The VOICE goes on Forever - Remembering Gregg Allman
With the sudden passing of Gregg Allman – Two of my long-time drummer friends…Bob Girouard and Gary Stevens...messaged me these personal letters about Gregg and the Allman Brothers Band. Both are so heartfelt, they brought tears to my eyes. With Bob and Gary’s permission - I am sharing them with our Not So Modern Drummer readers.
Gregg, rest in peace…
David Barsalou – Not So Modern Drummer
My dear brothers and sisters:
Since I began writing professionally (2005), I've always striven to keep my thoughts and revelations upbeat. However, with Gregg Allman's passing yesterday I must share the heaviness in my heart with those of you who can understand the magnitude of this loss.
Remaining positive in the face of my own inevitable end is pretty much how I run my life now. And I must admit, that recent news briefs a few months back regarding Gregg's failing health left me thinking: "well he'll somehow get through this bout." After all... year-after-year, and through all his personal/professional foils and foibles, he always seemed to come through as: "the last man standing." Seems in this case, maybe I took too much for granted. In fact, that VOICE, that soulful, powerful, distinctive VOICE so unmistakably his own, will remain one of the finest ever in music. That VOICE inspired many of us to partake in our own musical journeys. Perhaps I should have heeded the warning sign when a few months back his two (new) drummers were all set for me to interview them, but suddenly stopped communicating with me. That has NEVER happened to me, especially re: Modern Drummer Magazine. Obviously, they knew what only a few did. That indeed, brother Gregg's' cross, this time, was too much to bear. Obviously, God has other plans for him as he's now assembling that Allman Brothers "All Star Band" on-high.
Through these past few days of remembrances, tributes and the like, I've only been reminded that the VOICE will never be silenced as long as people like us keep it alive by performing, listening, or sharing with others. Moreover, it only confirms just how "mortal" we all are, and how it's important to never take life, health and loved ones for granted. We must live each day as our last, kick adversity to the curb, and most of all...we must, without any recourse..."Play On."
Sadly, the road does not go on forever,. RIP Gregg.....
Shortly before my father died, we had a talk about life and getting older, and, as it was near his 90th birthday, we talked about being old. My father said that the worst part wasn’t so much that your physical self changes and you can’t do things that you once enjoyed, but it was that your friends, and people that you identified with, be they sports celebrities, or actors, or entertainers, well…They die.
They die and you feel a compounding loss of a part of the happiness that was once in your life that was boundless, joyful, and “play”. They die and life becomes a little “less”. For me, this was one of those losses, and it hit me by surprise and hard. It surprised me how hard.
When we were all young guys and first heard “At Fillmore East”, we knew something big was there. It was jammy-melodic-bluesy-pot smoking-patchouli smelling-enveloping-rootsy and f*****g BIG. There were chops so good, so elevated that you just couldn’t believe people could play and sing like that with such authenticity. It gave license to jam, to explore musically, and to experiment and grow. It was steeped somewhere way south, and we all wanted to know what was in the Georgia and North Florida water that made this sound happen. I’ve read just about every book about the Allman Brothers Band and Gregg Allman, but nothing captures how they did it other than the proven way: after well over 10,000 hours together, you get good and the people you’re with get good and you get good together. They rehearsed constantly. That’s what we were hearing; passion, dedication and authenticity. And a shit-ton of rehearsal.
But there was another affect on us - one that brought us hope. The Allman Brothers Band was true to itself. They refused to be anything other than their authentic selves even though, just like us, there were a few tangents in style. They wouldn’t be compromised by corporate dictates. They wouldn’t just go along and be another derivative flavor of the month. They had to be themselves. This said something to all of us - that you could be yourself, let your individuality nurture and, maybe, maybe, the acceptance and the goal we shared of “making it”, whatever that was supposed to mean, was possible for a bunch of guys from the mostly middle/worker class/blue collar background we shared. That even though the club that night (most nights really!) was pretty empty, maybe a “record guy” would show up, like what he heard, and sign us up. Given the huge amount of music that was being consumed, and the fact that the triangle between Boston/Worcester and New London was a proven test market for the labels to gauge artist acceptance, our notion was not groundless. It was hopeful.
Just about two years ago my wife Melissa and I saw Gregg in the Cleveland area. He’s 67 at the time, and although weathered, his voice is like a lion. An article had recently come out in, of all publications, “The Wall Street Journal” about his career and life. In it, he commented that he could fall over tomorrow and have no regrets and that his life had been well-spent and fulfilling. Yet, until the end, he was creating and working his craft. Despite his father veing murdered when he was 2, despite losing his brother and avatar, Duane, just as their popularity hit, despite losing his heart-broken bass player, Berry, a year later, despite numerous health set-backs and a handful of expensive divorces, despite just recently leaving lost Butch, he still had to create, he still had something to say and that small but warm smile to lend. This was a life well-lived. And true, the road does not go on forever but, while it’s in front of you, you drink in every precious moment.
I guess I’ll get behind the kit and practice…….